A Whistle-Stop Tour of Beautifully Designed Train Stations and Termini From Around the World

By Jack Tomlin on at

It would be easy to think of train stations and termini solely as places to board a train to travel on your merry way. But, don't ignore the beauty of the structures surrounding the tracks and platforms.

Starting with classically designed stations and termini from three different continents, this collection brings you into the modern world where glass and metal reigns as the materials of choice, where colour and form trump cold functionality as the driving force behind an architect's design. Next up it's hybrid stations: examples of classic and modern architecture working in harmony to create beautiful new spaces of contrasting materials.

The tour ends in the future. Renders and artwork of proposed developments show the architects' visions in glorious perfect-world detail.

Seen any of these beautiful stations in person? Got one or two of your own to share? Tell us in the comments below.


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Grand Central Terminal Lobby
Grand Central Terminal – New York
What better place to start with than New York’s Grand Central Terminal, which was opened to the public on February 2, 1913. The imposing design was inspired by the beaux-arts style, which heavily influenced US architecture during the late 1800s to early 1900s. The beaux-arts style was itself derived from French architecture schools teaching the classic Imperial Roman style of architecture. The lustrous ceiling, detailing famous constellations such as Taurus and Gemini, only looks so impressively green after extensive restoration to remove decades of tobacco-smoke damage. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]

St Pancras Railway Station 2012-06-23

St Pancras International Station – London
‘The cathedral of railways’ was constructed by William Henry Barlow between 1850 and 1899. The imposing red brick exterior is designed in the Italian Gothic style and mainly houses the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, formerly the Midland Grand Hotel. Inside, it's dominated by the expansive and to-this-day awe-inspiring iron and glass roof, which was the largest of its kind at time of completion: 210.01 metres (689 feet) long, 73.15 metres (240 feet) wide, and 30.48 metres (100 feet) high at the apex above the tracks. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, wjlondon]
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

CST Interior
Chhtrapati Shivjai – Mumbai, India
This jewel of a station was opened in 1888 in Mumbai, and named the Victoria Terminus, after the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. In 1996 it was renamed in honour of Great King Chhatrapati Shivaji. Designed by Frederick William Stevens with influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Mughal buildings, in a style that was, apparently, pleasing to both Indian and English interests, it was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]
Estación de Atocha (Madrid) 12

Invernadero de Atocha, Madrid - view 2
Atocha Station – Madrid, Spain 
Madrid’s Altocha station was constructed by Alberto Palacio (a student and disciple of a certain Gustav Eiffel) and opened in 1892. While the structure itself is undoubtedly a site to behold, it is what occupies the interior that is certainly the more interesting. The central plaza is crammed full of verdant tropical growth, installed as part of regeneration works completed in 1992 when the terminal was transformed into a concourse with shops, restaurants and nightclubs – and the beautiful tropical indoor garden. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]


Southern Cross Station, Melbourne, Australia
Southern Cross, better known as Spencer Street, is a major railway station in Melbourne, Australia. Nicholas Grimshaw is the the man behind the design for that impressive undulating roof, seemingly billowing in the wind. The structure was awarded the the Royal Institute of British Architects' Lubetkin Prize for most outstanding building outside the European Union. [Image credits: Michael Evans, Panaramio]

Gare de Lyon Saint-Exupéry – Near Lyon, France
Gare de Saint-Exupéry TGV is a railway station near Lyon, France, mainly linked to Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, Saint-Exupéry station cost 750 million Francs and opened on 3 July 1994. The building is mainly a combination of concrete and steel, bearing a design that, from the outside, looks like a cobra’s winged head. [Image credits: Teematoe , Panaramio]

Kaohsiung Formosa Boulevard Station, Taiwan, China
Kaohsiung Formosa's colour-crazy 'Dome of Light', seen in the picture above, is the largest glass work in the world according to The China Post. It was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, is 30 metres in diameter, covers an area of 2,180 square metres, and is made up of 4,500 glass panels. It has become an attraction in its own right, with weddings even being held beneath the colourful structure. [Image credit: Wikimedia Commons]
Hauptbahnhof Berlin

Berlin Hauptbahnhof 180 panorama top level
Berlin Hauptbahnhof - Berlin, Germany
Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof was opened to the public 26 May 2006. While from the outside it may look like two hulking office blocks, the inside is dominated by a curved glass roof that spans the whole of the main concourse of the station, huge and sweeping with a surface area of about 85 metres (279 ft) by 120 metres (390 ft). [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]
Ligne 11 - Arts et métier
Arts et Métiers Paris Metro Station, France
Paris’ Arts et Métiers Metro station was redesigned by Belgian comics artist François Schuiten to mark the 200th anniversary of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in 1994. The copper cladding and various port holes are in a steampunk style, inspired by the science fiction works of Jules Verne. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons]


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King's Cross railway station MMB C5
King's Cross – London, England
London’s King’s Cross station’s recent redevelopment is a lovely example of old and new meeting and merging to form a wonderful space. The two huge arches of the train sheds stand impressive in their simple, yet mighty, design – so typical of the Victorian industrial age. Inside the station, though, commuters are welcomed by the sight of a lattice of white steel exploding from a narrow point in the ground, spreading up and engulfing the ceiling. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]

New and old façade of Strasbourg Railway Station

Strasbourg Station (5698669435)
Gare du Strasbourg – Strasbourg, France
The Gare Du Strasbourg has to be one of the most striking examples of modern architectural design working in partnership with a classic building. The old station was built between 1878 and 1883 by the German architect Johann Eduard Jacobsthal. Jump to 2007-2008 and Jean-Marie Duthilleul is the man who headed the construction of the glass and steel bubble that encases Jacobsthal's original, citing the building's need for protection from the elements, of course, but also for the millions of commuters who pass through it every year. The modernisation was given a Brunel Award in 2008. [Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons]

Dresden Hauptbahnhof – Dresden, Germany
Dresden’s original station was designed by Ernst Giese and Paul Weidner, and built between 1892 and 1897. During the refurbishment in the late 1990s to mid-2000s it was discovered that the corrosion since the war had left the steel roof arches unable to support the weight of glass panels. The solution was designed by Foster and Partners: a lightweight material of Teflon-coated fibreglass was used to cover the 30,000-metres-squared space – a real technical achievement. The reconstruction was nominated for multiple architectural prizes. [Image credits: Foster and Partners]


Napoli Afragola Station – Naples, Italy
Napoli Afragola is a proposed railway station of Naples designed by esteemed British architect Zaha Hadid. The main building, looking like some kind of reptile snaking its way across the landscape, is an overhead concourse that spans the many railway lines shooting off across Italy and beyond. [Image credits: Zaha Hadid ]

Haramain High Speed Rail – Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Haramain High Speed Rail project, headed by Fosters and Partners, and Buro Happold, is under construction in Saudi Arabia. It will be of particular importance for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims as it will link the Muslim holy cities of Medina and Mecca. According to Saudi Railways Organisation, the station will be made up of "aesthetically iconic" buildings with designs which respect Islamic architectural traditions. [Image credits: Foster and Partners]

Hyper-Speed Vertical Train Hub – London, England
This one's a bit of an ‘out-there’ design. It was submitted by Christopher Christophi and Lucas Mazarrasa for a competition run by Evolo, as a possible solution for overcrowded mega-cities of the future. It takes the traditional horizontal station, flipping it up to stand tall among neighbouring skyscrapers. It is proposed that powerful electromagnets would take the carriages up the tower, while inside the carriage the seats inside would pivot like a ferris wheel seat, meaning the passengers stay upright. You’ve just got to hope those magnets never fail, lest the whole thing turns into some sort of nightmarish commuter rollercoaster. [Image credits: Evolo]